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Master the Contrapposto

If there is one pose that all models must learn, it is the contrapposto. Italian for counterpoise, it is the pose often performed by runway models when they reach the end of the stage. And, it is the mainstay of any model posing for a photographer. A skilled model can perform dozens of variations over the course of just a few minutes.

The contrapposto utilizes an asymmetrical alignment of the human figure where the shoulders are offset from the hips. In other words, the shoulders are “counterpoise” to the hips. If a model’s hips shift to the left, then her shoulders must stay offset to the right to maintain balance. A concept better seen than read; below  you’ll find the Venus de Milo with red lines illustrating the alignment and balance achieved by such a pose.

venus de milo

public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

And arguably the finest example of the contrapposto is Michelangelo’s statue of David (see below). Notice how his hips and shoulders align counter to one another. This is achieved by a rightward shift in the hips, while his left arm is raised to a higher elevation than his right. This sculpture perfectly exhibits the key principles of balance and alignment utilized with the contrapposto.

statue of david

Photo by Alex Ghizila

To help show the many variations of the contrapposto, I’ll separate them into three categories: both arms positioned above the shoulders, both arms below the shoulders, and on arm up while the other is down. The gallery below features 7 images of models posing with both arms up. Pay close attention to how each model has a hip shifted outward.

The next seven images will feature models posing with both arms below the shoulders. Notice the variations in the positioning of their arms.

The last 7 images show the classic version of the contrapposto featuring one arm up, and the other down. When posing for a photographer this should always be the first posing option; followed by the other two groupings shown previously.

The images shown in this blog post are just a small fraction of all the possibilities with the contrapposto. A model can go a long way toward perfecting her craft by learning the many variations of this posing technique. Master the contrapposto, and you’ll master posing.

For related content take a look at the following posts: Posing Tips, Revealing the Hourglass, and Posing Tips, Symmetry vs Asymmetry.

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